By Fred Brown
Minor daily stressors can actually be good for us, keeping us on our toes, alert and even motivated. But as many of us know, stress can get away from us and feel out of control very quickly.
Here are five ways you can celebrate national Stress Awareness Month and minimize stressors in your daily life:
Laugh and connect
We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine,” and you may have had the experience when a good belly laugh felt like you just took an emotional jog around the block. Many of us are together daily and have been together for years, knowing each other well. Connecting with each other on a daily basis is important. Take time each day to enjoy your relationships through laughing or having lunch together.
Exercise and eat right
- Moderate physical activity is an excellent form of stress reduction. Get out and walk!
- With longer days upon us, take advantage of more light, which is a proven benefit to our mood and well-being.
- Also make minor adjustments to your diet. Many of us stress eat, but usually our choices in those moments aren’t the healthiest or wisest choices for our health and stress reduction. Try adding foods like berries or citrus to your diet that are high in vitamin C, which has been shown to aid in stress reduction. Studies have shown that dark chocolate, in moderation, lowers blood pressure.
- Instead of another cup of coffee, substitute chamomile or green tea, which has shown to have calming effects and can enhance mental performance.
Make a change
Even the smallest steps you take will begin to motivate you. Consider the following:
- Clean your desk or workspace. Making some clear space can make you feel more organized.
- Take a class in something that always interested you or try to devote a little more time to that hobby you have some passion for.
Reminding yourself to take a few minutes a day to step away and just breathe can help combat daily levels of stress. Breathing deeply can help you gain a sense of control and well-being. Dr. Andrew Weil has taken from yoga a breathing technique which is simple to do. To do the 4-7-8 (relaxing breath) exercise, breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 and then hold it for a count of 7 and finally exhale though your mouth for a count of 8. Perform it four times.
In behavioral health, the concept of mindfulness teaches us the importance of connection to our environment, to ourselves and others. We can have a profound positive effect on our thoughts or others, even in the smallest of ways. Take a second or two to notice something in your environment you haven’t really seen before. If you keep a journal or have a notepad on your desk, write down a positive thought or something you have appreciated in the moment.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been found to be an effective means of managing stress in one’s life and work. Many companies have been moving towards introduction of MBSR courses that teach a combination of mindful meditation, body awareness and yoga. The Rush University Prevention Center offers an eight-week course on MBSR multiple times a year.
Fred Brown, DNP, RN, NE-BC, is director of nursing psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. He is an assistant professor with the Rush College of Nursing.